BBL Championship Preview: Riders vs Patriots

The Morningside Arena will be buzzing with activity on Tuesday night as the Leicester Riders host the Plymouth City Patriots for the first time this season.

The Riders will want to get back to winning ways in the BBL after Friday’s game at the home of the B. Braun Sheffield Sharks did not fall in their favour.

Riders’ Season So Far

Leicester’s record now stands at 18-9 following the 71-62 loss to the Sharks.

They sit comfortably third in the BBL standings, six points behind the Bristol Flyers and four points ahead of a Manchester Giants team that are finishing the season strong.

If the Riders are to claim victory over the Patriots and close the gap on the Flyers, they must shoot better than last Friday.

Leicester hit 36% of their shots against the Sharks as well as 61% from the free throw line – numbers that have been a rarity for the Riders this season.

Controlling ball possession will also be a key factor against Plymouth after the Riders gave up 27 points from 23 turnovers last time out. Premier ball handlers like Kimbal Mackenzie and Carrington Love should lead the way, both finishing Friday night without coughing up a single ball to the opposition.

The top of the stat sheet against Sheffield belonged to versatile forward, Marc Loving. Loving finished the game with a double-double, dropping 18 points and snagging 11 rebounds in a defiant display.

His late three-pointer brought the Riders level in the fourth quarter, but accurate shooting from the Sharks saw them pull away in the final four minutes of the game.

Patriots’ Season So Far

The Patriots sit in eighth place in the BBL standings with a 10-17 record.

They are currently working through a rough patch in their season, last winning a game on February 19 at home to the Newcastle Eagles.

Plymouth’s latest matchup came when they welcomed the Cheshire Phoenix to Plymouth Pavilions, the home side falling 67-90 to their neighbours.

Solid free throw shooting and good production off the bench was not enough to secure a win for coach Paul James’s men, who (like the Riders) shot under 40% from the field.

The best performance came from Plymouth’s newest signing, Otas Iyekekpolor, a 6’8” forward who has played in leagues across Europe.

The Canadian dropped just six points but his 10 rebounds were the most of any player on the court.

His ability on the boards will be crucial if Plymouth hope to halt their current skid and overturn the 101-79 scoreline that occurred when they last met the Riders.

Key Matchup

Not known for their three-point shooting, the Patriots may pose a more telling threat inside the paint. Aggressive around the rim, Plymouth are one of the best teams in the BBL at infiltrating the interior and drawing fouls.

The key man in the middle for Plymouth is former Leicester Riders center and BBL veteran, Rashad Hassan.

The 6’8” American can take over a game with his close-range skills and has dropped over 20 points on seven occasions this season, including 32 on the Bristol Flyers.

Hassan is averaging 14.73 PPG over a 30-game span, bucketing close to 70% of his shots when around the basket.

He has also been useful on the boards, pulling down 6.67 RPG, most of any Patriot who has played more than 10 games.

Tasked with fronting up against Hassan will be a combination of Riders’ captain – Darien Nelson-Henry – and the 7’3” GB international, Aaron Menzies.

The experience and endeavour Nelson-Henry brings to the front court and Menzies’s pure shot-blocking ability should be key to limiting the effectiveness of the Patriots’ center.

Menzies is averaging 0.68 BPG, good for second on the Riders, and will need all of that 7’3” frame to affect Hassan’s looks in the post.

The former Dresden Titan has never shied away from using his length on the defensive end of the court, setting a Seattle University record for blocks with 79 in his junior season.

Stout defence inside and a more efficient shooting display from the Riders than displayed in the last couple of games should see them in the best position for victory.

Where to watch

The game tips off at 7:45 pm at the Morningside Arena. Get your tickets here!

If you can’t make the game, it will be streamed live on the BBL Official youtube channel, starting at 7:30 pm.